I arrived in Varanasi the day before Shivaratri ("Shiva's night"), one of the biggest festivals in the City of Shiva. There are usually two big music festivals around Shivaratri: the Dhrupad Mela (now in its 37th year) on Tulsi Ghat, and the more recent khayal event near Durga Temple, sponsored by Jalan's. As my wife Yuki is studying Dhrupad vocal she spent all her time at the Dhrupad Mela - see her blog (many photos, text in Japanese). I visited the Jalan's concert for a couple of items but was mostly disappointed. The sponsor's son's singing sent me out the door. Talk about nepotism.
Meanwhile at Dhrupad Mela... Yuki performed with her Guru-ji Dr Ritwik Sanyal's student group and did very well.
Two days later I saw Tahir Qawwal's excellent Qawwali group Fanna-fi-Allah at a guest house in Assi. Tahir spends parts of the year in Varanasi, USA and Byron Bay, so he is a nearby musical friend for me when our schedules coincide. I've seen and accompanied Tahir in khayal and light classical (in which he is also excellent) but this was the first I'd heard his Qawwali. The atmosphere was electric and uplifting. Kudos to Hari Om Hari on the tabla.
The following day we were blessed to be invited to a special ceremonial concert. My friends Debapriya Adhikary (vocal) and Samanwaya Sarkar (sitar), aka Debapriya-Samanwaya, had their gandabandhan initiation with Benares vocal legend Smt Girija Devi. Many local music legends were in attendance. (I've written previous blogs with Deb-Sam.)